Radio On


The National Museum presented Radio On today as part of its World Cinema Series.

The audience turn out is more cosmopolitan than the usual Singaporean Film buffs you would expect at Royston Tan's next film. It must be the `eurocentric' content of the film and fact that the write up and publicity are in fact very well-done. I mean, besides being a `cult' movie, it also has a great commentator, Ben Slater, whom himself had been involved in the Radio On REmix, a short video that revisits the elements in the 1979 film.

From the opening long take of a voyeuristic look into someone's private space with lots of shadows, walls and furniture and a light-rock, slightly dreamy soundtrack, i sort of guessed it would be largely an evocative kind of film that sort of paid homage to the music and spirit of the late 70s.

More like contemplative actually. The movie started with the protagonist seemingly losing sleep over something troubling. And the reason for its lack of clarity (which I found out later) was the poor sound mix (music too loud, dialogue too soft). He was actually curious over the cause of his brother's death. Then when I saw the POV shots of the passing countryside partially and beautifully shrouded in snow, it rang the bell that it was a road movie featuring the music from that era. It was a musically driven movie in fact.

The man met one peculair person after another. Starting with the Irish soldier who escaped from his regiment. I loved his slang. It kinda reminded me of what I am supposed to look into in 2 weeks time for the `Speak Good English Movement' organised by Substation. It proved there is no way you can separate an accent from the way a character speaks. The spoken content and the sound come together. And his accent made me realise there is no need to be ashamed of unabashed Singlish on screen in front of a foreign audience.

Sorry, still on the Irish. The scene was special because it presented a certain moment of truth, though not necesarrily conforming to any rules of narrative continuity. All through the trip to the end when he deserted the soldier when the soldier got out of the car to pee.

Then there was Sting's cameo. Apparently, Sting was not that famous yet. So he sang a ballad about the rules of chasing women at a gas station. tender moment there.

Finally, he met 2 German girls by the street who were stuck without transport. Kinda of reminded me of Babette's feast which I watching on DVD now, which also feature a story 2 pretty young ladies in a small town. Like a kind of social armour, they switched between English and German (but mostly in German and to themselves) when talking to the male protagonist. And I thought it felt like a statement scene. Quite strong in the dranatic point it made. It was surprising to find out later from Ben Slater that itb was half a token German scene, i,e, placed there because German money went into the production.

Overall, the `punk' factor in the film was strong. As I had already given up on the narrative halfway through, i allowed myself to be transported into the post-industrial, sombre-looking town of 1970s Bristol. (incidentally was there in yr 1999, 1 yr after Radio On Remix was made). the grey council flats, the forsaken quarry, the dinghy pubs and the pinball machines.... Together with the music, it was evident that these iimages coupled with the music (very indie) had a lot of era-significance. Though the whole point of view taken by the narrartive was of a very non-chalant and nihilistic nature.

During the Q and A, Ben shared that the protagonist's hair was actually dyed blue but we cant see because it is a B&W movie. Well, I have to leave up to my dreams to help me `revisit' Radio On again. Goodnight!

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